AYS SPECIAL: When governments turn against volunteers - the case of AYS
During the 2018, we’ve witnessed unprecedented backlash against human rights defenders who’ve been advocating legal access to asylum system in the EU. Volunteers and NGOs have been threatened, attacked and legally persecuted for the crimes they didn’t commit. AYS is one of them. For the first time we’re publicly disclosing our own case to paint the full picture of the events on Europe’s largest terrestrial border.
Looking back at the rapid change of the European attitude towards refugees and migrants and the radical turn of most member states to the right-populist political spectrum, it was just a matter of time before human rights defenders became targets, just like the ones they were trying to defend.
“Fishermen who rescue refugees from the sea can be charged with aiding illegal immigration. Volunteers who cook in public spaces can be charged for not having secured public health permits. Volunteer doctors can be charged with working in Greece without having their licenses to be reviewed and approved by the national government. Volunteers who pitch tents in public spaces can be charged with violating laws forbidding camping in public spaces. Volunteers who help to change the wet clothes of shivering children might be charged with molesting them. Photographers could be charged with violating military space on the coastlines. Those who donate food, clothing, and other supplies could be charged for not providing receipts. And finally, volunteers choosing to work in small groups without large donor bases, high overhead, bank accounts, and tax numbers can be prohibited from offering to help,” wrote Karolina Krist and Michael Bakas describing the situation on Greek islands in 2016, but precisely predicting what will soon happen throughout the Europe.
Last year brought some of the most shameful examples of the backlash against volunteers and NGOs in the modern history. Sometimes, governmental pressure even lead to further endangering of people’s lives. Obstruction of the sea rescue…